24 bands set for festival
HUNTINGTON -- To get an idea of the blossoming local music scene in Huntington, you've just got to catch up with Brandon Mitchell for a second.
Mitchell, who works at Route 60 Music by day, is hosting nine wildly diverse bands Thursday night at his house show venue Funky Towne, and that's just the start of this weekend's super-sized order of local, live music.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, at Ritter Park Amphitheater -- the site of those 1970s local rock shows -- Mitchell, of the punk-rocked acoustic act Disappearing Man, joins two dozen other acts for the third annual Huntington Music and Arts Festival.
Top that off with nine more acts at HMAF's pre-and-post-fest club parties and you've got 33 indie bands playing live just at fest events alone.
Kicking off at noon Saturday with the homegrown jam of songwriter Mark Smith, the Fest rolls non-stop music that doesn't wind down until back-to-back sets by raucous rockers, The Heptanes and The Demon Beat beginning around 8:30 p.m.
"I am just excited there is a fest going on in Huntington," said Mitchell, who is booking a two-week tour in New England and Canada to support a December record release. "The fact that it is really eclectic and the fact that it is so many sounds makes it that much better. It's nice to be able to see what we really have in Huntington and what's going on. A lot of times you look at different genres and you don't see that much but you put it all together and it is a lot."
Organizer and local musician, Ian Thornton said in spite of incredible challenges the first couple of years, the collective soul of the music scene has carried on, growing the fest and that is reflecting a growing scene.
The event has grown from 15 acts and about 300 people in attendance in the first year to 22 acts and more than 600 people attending last year.
Thornton said this year they hope to fill the 1,000-seat amphitheater to see the best of regional bands including: The Demon Beat, Bill Fox, The Carpenter Ants, The Heptanes, John Lancaster, Fletcher's Grove, Rozwell Kid, AC30, Qiet, Sly Roosevelt, Sasha Colette and the Magnolias, Blue Ring and Coyotes in Boxes.
There's also a second acoustic songwriter stage including such acts as Richie Tipton, Mark Smith, Grim Charles, Adam Benz, Modock Rounders, Cody Lynch, Nick Shelton, Jordan Andrew Jefferson, The Disappearing Man, Chris Strathman and Erik Woods.
Tickets are $15 advance or $20 at the gate. Admission is free for children 12 and under. Advance tickets are on sale at Route 60 Music in Barboursville, as well as The V Club and Black Sheep Burrito and Brews.
There will be a full slate of food vendors including Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, as well as beer vendors and soft drinks by Pepsi. There will also be a dozen art vendors.
"From the get go it was small and grassroots, and we just all did what we could and let it go," said Thornton, who plays bass and sings in the band AC30, which last year put out a vinyl release and toured regionally. "I think we are starting to see that growth happening now. Not that it's easier after three years because we are trying to do more, and I am putting more on myself to make it bigger."
Like a prism, the fest offers a glance through the looking glass at a myriad of genres, of both bands and solo acoustic acts, as well as a blend of both established nationally-known acts such as The Carpenter Ants, to college-aged artists like Modock Rounders, just now making a name for themselves.
Main acts play 25 minute sets. Acoustic acts bang out a 10-minute-or-so set while bands take turns setting up the stage for another act.
The only non-West Virginia act on the bill is a rare regional performance by Cleveland-based cult hero, Bill Fox, who fronted the rock band The Mice before morphing into an underground songwriting hero. Last year, Fox had an unreleased song become the anthem of the viral video, "Faces, Signs and Sentiments at Occupy Wall Street."
"He is one of those guys that when you find a Bill Fox fan they are so enthusiastic that you've got to go hear his music," Thornton said. "We're really excited to bring him down. It's one of our high marks."
In the first couple years, the Fest dialed back the clock to pay homage to bands that fueled the scene from a reunion of former Jive Records artists American Minor to last year's appearance by reggae-rockers Rasta Rafiki.
This year, Thornton called on two local rock heavyweights, rockabilly-blasters The Heptanes, who're back after several years of retirement, as well as Huntington-based modern rock solo artist, John Lancaster, who also fronted the popular '90s Huntington band, CHUM.
"That was my thought that we should dabble a bit into the Huntington scene history," Thornton said. "I wasn't on the scene but we had a great scene in the 1990s and you hear about all of those great shows at the Drop Shop and Gumby's, and so I definitely wanted to bring in those guys who were blazing the shows then. That as well as bring in the new guys like Coyotes in Boxes and Blue Ring. I wanted to connect all the scenes -- past, present and future."
Thornton and fellow promoters Adam Harris and Bud Carroll have kept the bills fresh with more than half new acts each year.
Some of the hardest working bands around such as Qiet, Sasha Colette and the Magnolias, Sly Roosevelt, AC30 and The Demon Beat, were all included in the recent Paste magazine article, "10 West Virginia Bands You Should Listen to Now," as part of The Paste 50 States Project.
All of them are back to play the third fest along with Fletcher's Grove, the Marshall University and West Virginia University-built jam band that's been crisscrossing the eastern half of the country this summer on the festival circuit.
Thornton said the hustle and hard work of the local bands, coupled with the rise in professional services such as the Live @ Trackside, professionally shot live video recordings at Bud Carroll's Trackside Studios, has elevated the game in Huntington.
"It's definitely getting more mature," Thornton said. "I think it goes back to people seeing other people doing it in the scene and they see that it's in reach. You can do all of these great things to promote yourself without being on Atlantic Records. I think the fact that more bands are cutting vinyl and are going on extended tours shows that we are getting more mature and having more faith in ourselves. We're kind of all taking care of each other as well as pushing the boundaries."
There will also be a merchandise area where you can buy CDs , T-shirts and such from local bands.
Festival art director Jimbo Valentine, who designed the event poster, helped bring in about a dozen visual artists and artisans that will have booths including: Brand Yourself, Drunken Mermaid Oddities, Happy Camper, A Meticulous Mess, Perpetual Glassworks, Scribbles & Splotches Caricatures, Spiral Light Productions and Vinyl Mountain Records.
Fresh off a summer of playing such city gigs as Party on the Patio and Pullman Square, Thornton said they hope to turn on new generations of music fans and help them plug into the creative scene.
"I think that is one of the best parts about the festivals is that for the fan we're bringing something that is normally a late-night-hour adventure to the forefront and anyone can come," he said.
WHAT: An all-ages concert featuring national act Bill Fox and a slew of West Virginia-based bands traveling regionally
WHERE: Ritter Park Amphitheater
WHEN: Gates open at 11:30 a.m. Music starts at noon and continues non-stop until 10 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Tickets are $15 advance or $20 at the gate
GET TICKETS: Advance tickets are on sale now at Route 60 Music in Barboursville, as well as The V Club and Black Sheep Burrito and Brews. The concert is free for children 12 and under. Get more info at www.hmafestival.com
WHAT ELSE: The event features an area where you can buy CDs, T-shirts and merchandise from local bands. There will be about a dozen visual artists and artisans that will have booths including: Brand Yourself, Drunken Mermaid Oddities, Happy Camper, A Meticulous Mess, Perpetual Glassworks, Scribbles & Splotches Caricatures, Spiral Light Productions, and Vinyl Mountain Records.
There's a full slate of food vendors including Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, as well as beer vendors and soft drinks by Pepsi.
THE SCHEDULE: Main Stage schedule with singer/songwriters and emcee during set changes for next act
Noon -- Mark Smith (Americana)
12:30 to 12:55 p.m. -- Carpenter Ants (gospel-soaked R&B)
1:10 to 1:35 p.m. -- Blue Ring (classic rock 'n' blues)
Erik Woods (quirky singer/songwriter)
1:50 to 2:15 p.m. -- Rozwell Kid (power pop/punk)
Chris Strathman (rock-influenced singer/songwriter)
2:30 to 2:55 p.m. -- Deadbeats & Barkers (funked, old-school rock trio)
Cody Lynch (punk-influenced singer/songwriter)
3:10 to 3:35 p.m. -- Coyotes In Boxes (alt-indie pop rock)
Grim Charles (melodic horror folk)
3:50 to 4:15 p.m. -- Sly Roosevelt (five-piece experimental rock)
Jordan Andrew Jefferson (pop songwriter)
4:30 to 4:55 p.m. -- AC30 (melodic indie pop-rock)
Nick Shelton (folk singer/songwriter)
5:10 to 5:35 p.m. -- Qiet (carnivalesque street
The Disappearing Man (socially-charged, punk songwriter)
5:50 to 6:15 p.m. -- John Lancaster (legendary local rocker)
Adam Benz (groove-based acoustic songwriter)
6:30 to 6:55 p.m. -- Fletcher's Grove (jazz-and-funked up jam band)
ModockRounders (old-time string band)
7:10 to 7:35 p.m. -- Sasha Colette & the Magnolias (Americana with killer guitar slinger)
Richie Tipton (Americana)
7:50 to 8:20 p.m. -- Bill Fox (legendary leader of Cleveland cult favorite The Mice, now edgy singer/songwriter)
8:35 to 9 p.m. -- The Heptanes (old-school punk-juiced rockabilly)
9:10 - 10 p.m. -- The Demon Beat (raucous rock trio)
At The V Club: The pre-parties kick off Thursday, Sept. 27, as Brett Fuller's This Ain't No Disco show at The V Club, 741 6th Ave., presents Sweatband, Meet Me in the Matinee and Farnsworth. The night is topped with DJ sets from DJ Franklin Furnace. Cover is $5 or free entry with the purchase of an HMAF ticket. Show is 18 and up.
At Black Sheep: On Friday, Sept. 28, the HMAF pre-party moves over to Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, 1555 3rd Ave., with the eight-piece horn-fueled jugband, Big Rock and the Candy Mountain Boys with special guest Tyler Childers. There is no cover charge.
THE AFTER PARTY: The HMAF After Party kicks off at 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at The V Club, with a double-shot of rock from The Phantom Six and Sangoma topped off with Charleston hip hop vets, Dinosaur Burps. Cover is $5 or free entry with an HMAF wristband.